Friday, March 10, 2006
What if Michael Jackson had never become a hit pop star? Imagine what the world would be like if Madonna had remained a virgin? If Britney Spears was just a girl and not yet a famous woman? If Elvis Presley had never checked into Heartbreak Hotel? This is the premise behind the new French film, “Jean-Philippe.” I attended the press screening of the film on Wednesday night after a co-worker requested that I provide an “American perspective” of the film. He neglected to consider the fact that, although I was born and raised in Les Etats-Unis, I probably have a more extensive knowledge of French pop culture than the average Gallic native.
Before I describe the film, you’ll need some background knowledge. Johnny Hallyday is perhaps THE most famous French singer (and recently actor) in the collective history of France. Often referred to as the “Elvis Presley of France,” he has had a 40-year career in the music industry and is one of France's biggest stars. He has sold 80 million records, made 400 tours, had 18 platinum albums and performed in front of 15 million people. With the exception of those who may have chosen to live under a rock between the 1950s and the present, everyone in France knows who Johnny Hallyday is. To most, he’s simply known as “Johnny.”
The story: “Fabrice (Fabrice Lucchini) is Johnny Hallyday’s biggest fan. One day, he wakes up in a world where Johnny does not exist. In despair, he goes looking for Jean-Philippe Smet and finds him running a bowling alley in a Paris suburb. There, Fabrice tries to convince Jean-Philippe to ‘become’ Johnny.”
To be honest, I was expecting a one and a half hour advertisement for Johnny Hallyday and his music, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well-made the film is. Most of the – very French – humor comes from “inside jokes” requiring a basic knowledge of French pop culture; for example, the bowling alley where Jean-Philippe works is called l’Olympia, which is one of France’s largest concert venues. However, the concept of the film is exportable, and Fabric Lucchini’s performance is hysterical. I even laughed out loud a few times, a rarity, especially in screenings of commercial French comedies. Most of the humor, again, is very subtle and based on the singer’s real-life; Fabrice names his daughter Laura (after Laura Smet, Johnny Hallday’s real-life daughter with French actress Nathalie Baye), in one Karaoke scene, a pretty girl smiles at Johnny (the girl happens to be Laeticia, Johnny’s current real-life wife), and Benoît Poelvoorde (one of France’s famous actors) makes a cameo as a wanna-be rock star who is given advice to “give acting a go.” Hallyday proves himself as an actor, delivering an emotional, moving performance as a pop star whose dreams are shattered when a motorcycle accident prevents him from attending hit TV series “Top of the Pops” and consequently from being discovered by a talent agent.
Alas, it is unlikely that this film will make it across the Atlantic, but it should perform well at the French box office when it opens here in a few weeks. In fact, Johnny’s fans are ready to go; the phones here at Le Film Français haven’t stopped ringing as ladies from all over the country have been calling for copies of last week’s issues featuring an ad for the film on the cover. But alas, I must reply: Johnny has left the building.
Pastry of the Day :
(Pronounced: lah / ruh lee zhugz)
An eclair-based dessert, this cake can take many forms. Originally called "la réligieuse" because it was said to resemble a nun in her habit, in miniature form it is made with a filled cream puff that is topped by a filled profiterole. It may also be made with as a pyramid of profiterole or made with elongated éclairs that have been formed into a pyramid and filled with creme Saint-Honoré. La Durée's version is absolutely divine, almost too pretty too eat. (I stress the ALMOST =)
Quote of the Day :
"Last week I stated that this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister and now wish to withdraw that statement. "